Tags: Edward Snowden | NSA/Surveillance | Edward Snowden | Rep. Robert Pittenger

Rep Pittenger: Intel Meetings with Europeans Healing Wounds Snowden Inflicted

By    |   Wednesday, 24 December 2014 09:40 AM

The fractures in U.S. relationships with European countries caused by Edward Snowden’s revelations of widespread National Security Agency eavesdropping is being healed by the interaction of members of Congress from this country and their European counterparts, said North Carolina Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger.
 
In a recent interview with Newsmax, Pittenger, chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, recalled how a series of meetings he and colleagues from both parties have held with members of European parliaments "have gone a long way to putting behind us a lot of the misinformation that has come from the Snowden business.
 
"These meetings have been so productive because the [members of parliament] from European countries have a better understanding of what we are actually doing with intelligence-gathering," said Pittenger, who was re-elected to his second term in November, "They understand now that we are fully committed to civil liberties, while we defend our country." 
 
The North Carolinian recalled a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in June, which included House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R.-Calif., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R.-Mich., as well as former Rep. Jane Harman, D.-Calif., now president of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.

That meeting set the stage for the much larger Parliamentary Intelligence-Security Forum in September, when more than 100 Members of Parliament and other officials from 28 European nations met in the Library of Congress.  Chairman Rogers, Maryland Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee), California Rep. Devin Nunes (who recently became Intelligence Committee chairman), and Connecticut Rep. Jim Himes (who recently became ranking Democrat on Intelligence) all participated. 
 
"I think the understanding among our colleagues is gaining in terms of oversight," Pittenger told us, "where the legislative branch of the U.S. government has oversight over intelligence agencies, there is nothing like that in most of the European governments who were represented at the conference. 
 
"Mike Rogers emphasized to them that we [members of Congress] work with the [executive branch of government] every day."
 
Pittenger added that the European lawmakers are beginning to realize "they need more accountability of their intelligence services" and "it was a bit disingenuous for them to point fingers at us when they don’t have oversight." 
 
The members of the parliaments expressed "appreciation for the dialogue," Pittenger recalled, adding that lawmakers from the German Bundestag were "especially appreciative." Germany became one of the most outraged of European countries over U.S. eavesdropping following Snowden’s revelations that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone had been tapped into.
 
"Even a [Bundestag] member from the Green Party told us he was more accepting of what our [intelligence-gathering] procedures were," said the congressman.
 
As for renegade CIA employee Snowden himself, Pittenger admitted that "to many of our European friends, he is a hero. What he stole overshadowed the issues related to the revelations. Many of the 1.8 million documents that he stole puts our European allies themselves at risk."
 
Pittenger said that there will be similar meetings in the future between members of Congress and members of parliaments from European countries. His most recent meeting was a Dec. 9 session in his office with a delegation from Lithuania that included the chairmen of the defense and foreign affairs committees in parliament. 

He noted that Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D.-Calif., is participating in an event with the German Marshall Fund in April that will bring together members of the legislative branches of the U.S. and several European countries.
 
"We’ll continue to talk about what Snowden revealed, about oversight and accountability," he said, "and the talks will be productive. We’ll get past this [Snowden] business."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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The fractures in U.S. relationships with European countries caused by Edward Snowden is being healed by the interaction of members of Congress from this country and their European counterparts, said Rep. Robert Pittenger.
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Wednesday, 24 December 2014 09:40 AM
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